October 1, 2010
By Mike Collins
General aviation continues to face threats in Washington, D.C. There still is a need to remain vigilant on the matter of FAA funding, and other issues also require that GA have friends on Capitol Hill.
AOPA’s Legislative Affairs team is concerned that November’s House and Senate elections could have a devastating impact on general aviation. “That’s because there’s a wave of anti-incumbent hostility ready to wash away the political landscape as we know it,” said Craig Fuller, AOPA’s president and CEO. “What this means to you is that the future of many of the 31 senators and 123 representatives who serve in the congressional General Aviation Caucuses are in jeopardy.”
The association has developed good working relationships with these men and women—in fact, AOPA was instrumental in the creation of the caucuses. General aviation has never had so many supporters in the House or the Senate. If AOPA loses these important allies in November, general aviation could again be faced with user fees, ATC modernization could stall for lack of funding, and new taxes could appear.
AOPA’s Political Action Committee is working hard to support these friends of general aviation, but more help is needed. For more information or to make a contribution to the PAC, visit the website or call AOPA at 800/872-2672.
For example, the EPA would like to see lead removed from 100LL avgas. While the EPA acknowledges that aviation gasoline formulation is an FAA issue, the FAA needs funding to test and evaluate a number of potential 100LL replacements. Then there’s the matter of funding for the FAA’s Next Generation Air Traffic Control System (NextGen); how much of that cost should be paid by GA? Increasingly, security is an area where we need friends in Congress who are both savvy and familiar with GA; remember the Large Aircraft Security Program—which as originally proposed would have affected many personal and business aircraft that really aren’t that large—and Security Directive 8F, which would have placed onerous credentialing requirements on pilots at small airports?
On November 2, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard at the voting booth. Find out where your federal candidates stand on issues affecting GA as you decide how to cast your vote. The fact that so many of AOPA’s 414,000 members regularly vote is an effective means of ensuring that your association’s concerns are heard.
The AOPA Political Action Committee (PAC) provides members with an important tool to educate and support GA-friendly members of Congress. AOPA PAC is an independent fund of voluntary, personal contributions that is strictly regulated by the Federal Election Commission. Contributions are used by political candidates to defray the costs of their campaigns. The AOPA PAC is a nonpartisan entity that supports qualified men and women, regardless of party affiliation, who recognize and support our right to fly. Another tool to ensure we have supporters in Congress is your vote. There are many reasons that you may choose to vote for a particular candidate running for Congress. The information presented here highlights some of the key races facing GA supporters this November and is intended only to reflect a candidate’s position on GA issues.
The 2010 congressional election cycle will be the first since Barack Obama, a Democrat, was elected president. While historically the party holding the White House often loses seats during a president’s first midterm elections, the economic tsunami the country has experienced during the past two years will impact all incumbents running for office—regardless of party affiliation. Although the president is not on the ballot in midterm election years, his policies and performance are a major factor in how people will vote at the polls. They’re also a major factor in garnering the independent vote. According to a Gallup poll conducted in August, Republicans have attracted greater support from independents than have Democrats. This may in part be the result of independent voters’ greater dissatisfaction with the job President Obama is doing.
AOPA has many supporters—on these pages we have profiled four senators and several representatives who have been identified as most vulnerable. In addition, there are 128 members of the House General Aviation Caucus—approximately one-third of the House—and 30 members of the Senate GA Caucus, which is one of the largest caucuses in the Senate, that we want to see stay in Congress. (All candidates profiled here are members of their respective GA caucus.) AOPA also counts among its supporters many other members of Congress who are not caucus members. Please visit the website to see profiles on additional GA Caucus members.
In the Senate, there are 37 seats up for election. Democrats are defending 19 seats, of which seven are “open seats” where a senator is retiring. Republicans, on the other hand, are defending 18 seats and also have seven open seats because of retirements. Assuming that the two independents continue to caucus with the Democrats, the Republicans will need to net 10 seats to take control of the Senate. Unlike the House, many political analysts do not foresee the Republicans taking over the majority in the Senate in 2010.
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
With roughly 60 backcountry landing strips in Idaho, Sen. Mike Crapo has been at the forefront of protecting these valuable landing areas. He has worked with Forest Service officials to see that backcountry landing strips remain open, and has introduced legislation such as the Backcountry Landing Strip Access Act to block efforts by federal agencies to restrict or arbitrarily prohibit GA’s use of rural landing areas by requiring approval from state aviation officials before closing landing sites on federal land. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Crapo has also actively voiced his concerns about altering the current aviation tax structure, and remains a steadfast supporter of GA when it comes to funding the FAA. He is running for his third term in the Senate.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) Sen. Jim DeMint is the ranking member of the aviation subcommittee on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, making his a powerful voice in shaping aviation policy. DeMint has historically opposed user fees and excessive taxes on general aviation, and is an original cosponsor of the Senate FAA authorization bill. The bill continues to fund the FAA through fuel excise taxes paid into the aviation trust fund, but like its House counterpart, contains no user fees. DeMint is currently running for his second term in the Senate.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) Sen. Johnny Isakson understands the important contribution that aviation makes to the economy, and was one of the 35 senators who signed a letter last year noting the economic benefits of FAA authorization legislation and the need for its consideration in the Senate. Isakson, who is running for his second term, is also a supporter of small airports and has worked to secure authorization and funding for the construction of new general aviation airports in his state of Georgia.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden has an instrumental role when it comes to the debate over FAA financing. Along with many of his colleagues on the committee, he has supported FAA funding legislation that does not contain user fees. Understanding that investment in infrastructure is a key part of economic recovery, Wyden joined 35 of his colleagues last year to sign a letter urging Senate leadership to bring FAA legislation to the floor for consideration. He also recognizes the value of small airports and supports funding key improvements at several Oregon airports. Wyden is currently running for his fourth term in the Senate.
In the House, the Democrats are defending 255 seats, while Republicans are defending 178 and two vacancies. It takes 218 seats to determine a majority, and there is much talk that Republicans may win enough seats—they would need 39 additional seats—to gain the majority in the House. In late August, the Cook Political Report, which is widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading authorities on U.S. elections and political trends, was forecasting a Republican net gain of 35 to 45 seats.
Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.-12) Since first being elected to Congress, time and time again, Rep. John Barrow has voiced his opposition to user fees and support for a tax-based funding system for the FAA. In addition to speaking out on FAA funding, he joined several of his colleagues in urging President Obama to reject user fees in his budget proposal. He has defended general aviation against potentially harmful security regulations such as the Large Aircraft Security Program, and remains committed to investing in small airports. Barrow, who is an AOPA member, is running for his fourth term in Congress.
Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa-3) As a longtime AOPA member and owner of a Zenith 601, Rep. Leonard Boswell has been an avid supporter of general aviation and one of GA’s biggest champions in Congress. He has repeatedly defended GA against harmful funding proposals and has gone on record numerous times to educate others about the important purpose that GA serves. A senior member of the House aviation subcommittee, Boswell is known to be a tough negotiator for general aviation in the debate over FAA funding, aviation security, and protecting our airports. He is well respected for his knowledge and understanding of the issues that affect the industry, and will continue to be a strong voice for aviation. Boswell is running for his eighth term in Congress.
Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.-2) Four years ago, Rep. Allen Boyd achieved his dream of learning to fly and now owns a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. He has also become one of the GA community’s most passionate champions in Congress. In order to get the message out about the importance of GA, he and Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) founded the House General Aviation Caucus, which now has 128 members. Through the caucus, Boyd has worked tirelessly to educate his fellow members of Congress about the value of general aviation. He also was instrumental in ensuring the passage of an amendment to the TSA authorization bill reinforcing that security directives, such as the controversial SD-8F imposing burdensome credentialing regulations on private pilots at small airports, should only be used to respond to emergencies and immediate threats rather than an alternative to the regulatory process. Boyd is currently running for his eighth term in Congress.
Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.-10) Rep. Paul Broun has been an AOPA member since 1963 when he earned his private pilot certificate, and is an instrument-rated commercial pilot. A longtime interest in economic development in Georgia showed Broun the importance of GA to businesses in the state. He recognizes that general aviation is critical for a business to work and one of the greatest economic engines of any community is an airport. Broun supports the need to develop airports and expand the ones we’ve got while making sure there’s less regulatory burden on general aviation. Since being elected to Congress in 2006, he has not had time to fly. However, he’s using flight simulation software on his personal computer to maintain instrument skills while he’s not flying actively. Broun is running for his third term in Congress.
Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.-17) In these challenging economic times, it is vital to have knowledgeable supporters in Congress such as AOPA member Rep. Chet Edwards. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, he has worked to protect airports and airport funding with the knowledge and understanding that aviation is an integral part of the economy. He has also weighed in on the FAA funding debate, having been one of 118 members of Congress to sign the letter to President Obama urging him to reject user fees as a way to fund the FAA and instead retain the efficient fuel excise and ticket taxes currently used to fund the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. Edwards is running for his eleventh term in Congress.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.-49) With more than three decades of flying experience, AOPA member Rep. Darrell Issa knows the history of general aviation in America, and wants to see it continue to grow in the future. He has championed general aviation’s role in the economy and has consistently supported investment in airports, runways, and flight training in his home state of California. He supports the current tax structure for FAA funding, and signed the letter to President Obama urging the rejection of user fees for general aviation. Issa also has weighed in on the Large Aircraft Security Program and other regulations with the potential to harm GA, and is a strong voice in recognizing the contributions and benefits that general aviation provides. He is running for his sixth term in Congress.
Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.-23) Now serving his first term in the House, Rep. Chris Lee has become involved in the general aviation caucus and showed his support for the current FAA funding structure by signing the letter to President Obama urging the rejection of user fees. Lee, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, also has taken a strong interest in ensuring economic recovery and growth, and knows that transportation infrastructure plays a key role in making sure this happens. Lee also is aware of how vital GA is to our national air transportation system. An AOPA member since 2008, he will be a strong supporter for general aviation in the years to come.
Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.-At Large) Rep. Denny Rehberg, a current AOPA member and student helicopter pilot who flies regularly at his ranch in Montana, has proven to be a knowledgeable and avid supporter of general aviation. He opposes user fees for general aviation, and has worked hard to protect small airports in his state. While on his ranch, Rehberg sees firsthand the important role GA plays in the agricultural economy. With that in mind, Rehberg has consistently weighed in on potentially harmful security regulations such as the Large Aircraft Security Program, and has championed recreational flying in his home state and across the mountain west. Most recently, he introduced a resolution recognizing the role and contribution of backcountry airstrips and the services they help to provide such as support for firefighting and rescue efforts. Rehberg is running for his sixth term in Congress.
Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.-4) As an AOPA member and pilot, Rep. Mike Ross knows aviation well. He is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has an important role in a number of arenas, including environmental policy. Ross brings his knowledge and experience with general aviation to this important committee and continues to be a knowledgeable source of information on GA for his colleagues in the House. A strong supporter of small airports, Ross also recognizes the value of general aviation and what it contributes to the economy in terms of jobs and industry. He is running for his sixth term in Congress.
Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.-3) As a member of the House aviation subcommittee, Rep. John Salazar is no stranger to the challenges that GA and the aviation industry face in a tough economy. As an active pilot who owns a Piper Comanche and outspoken member of AOPA, he has firsthand knowledge and experience with the issues at hand. Salazar has been a steadfast supporter, having spoken out against harmful funding proposals and going on record with his concerns regarding security proposals such as Security Directive 8F that would have placed onerous credentialing requirements for pilots at small airports, and the Large Aircraft Security Program. Salazar is running for his fourth term in Congress and will continue to be a friend and supporter of general aviation.
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
AOPA expressed concern in a meeting with town officials from East Hampton, New York, that restrictions proposed to curb airport noise “overwhelmingly” generated by transient commercial flights would unfairly burden traditional airport users.
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Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) talks about the Pilots Bill of Rights II, which includes a provision to allow private pilots to fly an aircraft with up to six seats, weighing up to 6,000 pounds, VFR or IFR, without a third class medical certificate. The bill also reforms the NOTAM system, and provides more legal protections for pilots accused of regulatory infractions.
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